Category Archives: Just Vegetables

Jicama is a legume!

 

Tubers, beans, and leaves of the Jicama plant.

For a few years I had a wonderful job in lower Baja, Mexico working outside of San Jose del Cabo, in the mountains. The project was the dream of the former leader of the band, Tangerine Dream. He wanted to make a retreat where, just for example, the dining room tables were designed in such a way that people couldn’t easily make eye-contact with one another, so that they were, in effect, alone with their thoughts. What was wonderful about the job was not that so much (I  like contact!) but being able to go to Baja every spring, to work with the wonderful and ingenuous Mexicans who could always figure out how to do difficult things with few materials,  to work with rastra blocks of our buildings, and to learn about plants.

I spent a lot of time with a botanist from the area who was showing me some of the native plants we might use in the spa kitchen. He would often say that jicama was a legume. A bean. I thought he was teasing me.

“Really?” I asked him.

“Yes!” he assured me. “It is.”

This issue was set aside for many years until one day, recently, in the Santa Monica farmers market I saw a stand of greens, bean pods, and jicama roots, all entwined and attached to one another.  The botanist was right. Jicama is a bean!

The brown papery covered part that we mostly eat is a swollen tuberous root. If you look at jicama images on line, they never show the beans, only the tuber. But here’s an image that shows all parts of the plant. It’s a bit chaotic, but if you look, you can make out the beans and the roots among the leaves.

I’m not saying you should eat the beans – I’ve read that the leaves have a toxic element so maybe the beans have it too. Plus there are other beans to eat.

But who knew?

Mostly this is just a curious bit of information. Enjoy!

 

My New Book: In My Kitchen

 

A friend pointed out recently that myweb-site had disappeared!  And she was right, but it’s back now, which is good, because I want to tell you about my new book that’s coming out in March.

It’s called In My Kitchen. And that’s just what it is – me in my kitchen cooking favorite recipes, brought right up to date with today’s new ingredients, as well as recipes that are quite new.  It is lavishly illustrated with gorgeous photographs by Erin Scott and all in all I think it’s a handsome, intimate book. (I just got a copy in the mail from my publisher, 10-Speed Press.) It is richer in narrative than most of my books, replete with stories and a close look at how new ingredients have made good food more accessible.

I really enjoyed writing this book and working with everyone who was involved with it. I hope you’ll like it, too!

The Zucchini with Ribs

Costata Romanesco zucchini, whole and sliced.

Costata Romanesco is hands down my favorite zucchini.

I know that might sound strange, for zucchini isn’t the most interesting, vibrant, or glamorous of vegetables. Plus everyone likes to complain about how they have just way too much of it. I say to those lucky complainers, “You don’t have squash bugs, for if you did, you’d treasure each and every squash and blossom!” For some of us, the effort to grow zucchini means encounters with hoards of creepy grey bugs and the inevitable early death of one’s struggling plants. So if I’m going to open myself to squash bugs and anxiety over the early demise of my summer squash, then I’m going to grow a zucchini I get excited about.  And Costata Romanesco is it.

There are three things that are special about this old variety. Each squash has ribs, the ridges that run along the long body of each one. A little hard to capture in a photo until you slice them, then you can see them as the ruffled, sculptured edges of each round of squash. I think they look wonderfully fetching and are truly so when a mass of the rounds is jumbled together. It doesn’t matter whether you steam or sauté them, either, because they will taste good.

Another virtue of the Costata Romanesco is its density. Somehow, this variety is less watery and the texture more firm, which makes it a much more satisfying summer squash to eat than others.  Add to that the flavor, and you’re home. The flavor is, well, simply more squash-like. Some describe it as nutty. I think of it as down-to-earth. In any case,  it’s there, and it has real taste, which cannot always be said of more modern squash.

The Costata (meaning ribs) is an Italian heirloom. Lots of companies stock seed packets for this gem. (Johnny’s, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Sustainable Seed Company, Fedco).  Like many heirlooms, it doesn’t always produce as heavily as other zucchini, but the plants are big and robust and if you don’t want a glut of zucchini, why not choose the best and go with what it produces? Actually, I’ve always found that mine make plenty.

And one squash makes a a fast and neat little lunch for one.

 

One Zucchini Lunch

A One-Zucchino Lunch for One

Time required: about 4 minutes

1 7-inch Costata Romanesco squash

Sea salt

Good olive oil

Fresh herb, such as dill, basil, marjoram

Pine nuts

Freshly ground pepper

Lemon if you wish

 

Slice the squash crosswise  into rounds about ¼ inch thick or a little more if you like it heftier.

Steam over boiling water for about 3 minutes —taste to make sure it’s done enough for you.

Turn it out onto a plate or better, a shallow bowl.  Season with sea salt, a drizzle of good olive oil, some fresh herb, a few pine nuts, some pepper and a squeeze of lemon if you wish.

That’s it. Sit down and enjoy. Mop up the juices with a piece of bread.

 

And this is just the beginning. You might add halved Sun Gold tomatoes, thin shavings of Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, a shower of very young arugula leaves, a slivered squash blossom —or just leave it as is.

The Mighty Gilfeather Rutabaga

A Gilfeather rutabaga (above) and regular rutabaga (below).

A Gilfeather rutabaga (above) and regular rutabaga (below).

I first heard of this vegetable as the Gilfeather Turnip, but it’s actually a rutabaga. Like other members of the rutabaga group (Brassica napobrassica) it has a long tap root and rootlets issuing forth in two bands that run down the opposite sides of the tuber. Unlike other rutabagas we know it is white skinned http://www.oakleyonorder.com/ and white fleshed whereas the usual rutabaga has a purple band of skin on the outside and inside the color is a delectable creamy yellow. (Also, a turnip is round and doesn’t have those rootlets or taproot.)  The flavor of the Gilfeather is rooty sweet with a bit of a peppery twang, much like any rutabaga, but many say, so much better.

When the Slow Food’s Ark of Taste first got going in the USA, this was one of the earliest members to board.  Seeds were scarce since the Vermont farmer, John Gilfeather, who grew this vegetable, was so protective of his favorite vegetable that he cut off both the tops and the long roots so that they couldn’t be Oakley Sunglasses cheap cultivated. Seed of course, was out of the question, but it’s hard to possess anything in full and a few seeds did get away. Thanks to the Ark of Taste and a few intrepid farmers, you can buy the Gilfeather turnips/rutabaga not exactly everywhere, but in a few select farms. (Find them by going to slowfoodusa/arkoftaste. Look up Gilfeather turnip then go to Local Harvest to find who is growing them. There are a few farmers.)

John McClendon, a farmer in the Phoenix area, is one who grows Gilfeather rutabagas. He placed a hefty specimum in my hand before we each packed up our books and vegetables at the Scottsdale Eileen Fisher store. (We were both showing our wares in this clothing store, but that’s another story.) I was thrilled with the gift and a tucked it carefully into my suitcase to take home.

John and Marcia McClendon at Eileen Fisher

But the next day I was lucky enough to taste one at FnB Restaurant, also in Scottsdale, grown by Mr. McClendon and prepared by the talented chef Charlene Badman. I can’t give away her secret, but I can say that it was a delectable dish—golden, caramelized, and oddly enough, heart shaped, but not cheap oakley sunglasses through any contrivances on Charleen’s part. Cut a rutabaga lengthwise and you might just get a big heart. And if you turnout to be a real fan of the Gilfeather rutabaga, this might just be your Valentine’s special. And keep your eyes open for this special heirloom vegetable.

 

Just Vegetables: Radicchio di Chioggia

 

Radicchio in the Garden

Radicchio in the Garden

At the store we just see the red heart in the center, but in the field we see the other leafy material that is part radicchio, too. The outer leaves, which are green, often lie open, the purple ones next tier in that are also somewhat opened, then finally there’s the tighter purple-red head in the center, looking something like a cabbage, only smaller. Radicchio, however, is not a cabbage, but a chicory, closer kin to lettuce, Jerusalem artichokes, and salsify —all members of the daisy, or aster family, Asteraceae.  All of the plants in this family produce flowers that are daisy like in form. During the summer radicchio doesn’t look so interesting in my garden, but the minute the weather turns cool, it starts to turn that seductive dark purple red that makes it irresistible. As dramatic as radicchio is in a salad, I adore it when it’s seared in a skillet and covered with Gorgonzola or another blue cheese. As it’s color fades to brown, its flavor swells and sweetens. I add the cheese once the wedges have been turned then let it Oakley Sunglasses cheap soften and ooze into the leaves. Freshly cracked pepper finishes the dish and maybe a little splash of aged red wine vinegar.  It’s the winter food I eat often and adore each time I do.

 

 

Seared Radicchio with Blue Cheese                                    for 2, or even 1

 

1 head of radicchio di Chioggia (about the size of a grapefruit)

Olive oil

Slices or small chunks of blue cheese

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Cut the radicchio into 6 or 8 wedges, keeping them joined at the base so they don’t fall apart. But even if they do, don’t  hesitate to use them.

Coat a cast iron skillet or grill pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the wedges of radicchio and season with them with salt. With the pan being hot but the heat only medium-high, cook until the wedges are browned on the bottom, then turn, adding a little more oil if needed and another few http://www.oakleyonorder.com/ pinches of salt. Lay the cheese over the top, season with freshly ground pepper, and cover the pan. Cook until the leaves are browned all the way through and the cheese has softened, a matter of a few minutes. Remove to a plate and eat as is, or with a dash of vinegar.  You can eat this over polenta, too, or with pasta, and it’s delicious paired with roasted winter squash.

Just Vegetables: January Cabbage

Savoy CabbageSavoy Cabbage (Brassica oleracea)

(Also known as January King Cabbage, Cavalo Verza)

This cabbage is still small, but you can see what a huge mass of leaves are involved in creating a head of cabbage. Savoy cabbages have savoyed leaves, which mean that they’re crinkly and bubbly. And gorgeous. A single leaf looks like a faience plate. As the name January King suggests, this is a royal winter cabbage. Indeed, I find it sweeter than the smooth leafed storage cabbages and it is always my choice whenever http://www.oakleyonorder.com/ possible. The leaves are stunning when blanched then rolled around a filling. When simply cooked and sauced, the leaves have a light and airy feel due to all those crinkles. Some savoy cabbages lean towards the red end of the color chart. Those you find outside of the garden will be stripped of all those outer leaves.

Savoy cabbage is in the Cruciferous family, often called The Cabbage Family.

January Cabbage Salad with Blue Cheese and Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6

The crinkly leaves of January cabbage, or Savoy cabbage, are not as dense as storage cabbages. Thinly sliced into ribbons, they make a fine salad that’s delicate enough. I mix the cabbage with romaine lettuce and red butter lettuce, or whatever I have around, for a mix of textures and colors. Amounts are of course, quite flexible.

4 cups thinly shredded (sliced) Savoy cabbage

2 cups thinly sliced Romaine

2 cups thinly sliced red butter or other lettuce

1 large shallot finely diced

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or aged red wine vinegar

Sea salt

2 teaspoons smooth mustard

5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil

Blue cheese, thinly sliced or crumbled, ½ cup or more

Combine the sliced greens in a spacious bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Make the dressing. Cover the shallot with the vinegar, add ½ teaspoon salt, and let stand for 10 minutes. Mix in the mustard then whisk in the oil. Taste on a cheap oakley piece of cabbage leaf and adjust, adding more of anything that’s needed.

When ready to serve, pour the dressing over the greens and toss well with your hands. Add the blue cheese and toss once more so that it’s mixed in with the greens. If the rest of your meal has been light, or if this is your meal, add some roasted walnuts as well.

The Chard Among the Goosefoots

The goosefoot family of plants, the chenopodiaceae, is one we’re all pretty familiar with even if we don’t know its longish name.  It includes spinach, beets, and chard, but also a host of edible wild (and cultivated) plants collectively known as “quelites”.  Among them are lambs quarters, magentaspreen, orach, pigweed, and the cultivar, Good King Henry.  Quinoa and huanzontle also reside here, as do a number of wild desert plants, like Four Wing Saltbush.  All have masses of small edible seeds. Some, like huanzontle, are eaten while they’re still in their flower form. Others, like quinoa, are eaten once the seeds have formed and dried. Some of these are amaranths which used to be botanically closer but are still pretty similar in some respects, especially taste. Below is a bouquet of amaranths from a farmers market in Arlington, MA.

Amaranths from the farmers market

One botany book of mine succinctly sums up the goosefoots as a group of rank and weedy plants, which some clearly are. Epazote, the only herb in the family, certainly could be described that way, as can a number of the wild goosefoots that grow around my neighborhood. When I note the summer pollen index in the morning paper, much of it is due to the “chenopods”, the wild weedy ones just going to flower in June

But why goosefoot? Because the leaves are supposedly the shape of a goose’s foot. And they are, sort of. And how do I know? While visiting a u-pick berry farm in the Cuyahoga National Park, a small flock of geese had gathered behind a fence. As my friend and I approached their enclosure they ran Magliette Calcio A Poco Prezzo towards us, their long necks outstretched, hissing with unbridled menace because while we were proper visitors to the farm, in their eyes we were also likely to be thieves. I asked the farmer if he’d be willing to pick up a goose and show me its foot so I could see its shape. He did so, thrusting a big, orange leathery-looking claw-like appendage in my face. It was a powerful looking foot, but its shape was both broader and simpler than I had expected. It didn’t match up exactly with the shape of the leaves in this family, although it did roughly enough.  This webbed foot was rather broad and many goosefoot leaves like spinach and chard, are narrow.  Maybe some geese have narrower feet? Still, it is possible to see the resemblance, especially when you think of other leaves in other families that have absolutely no similarity, like artichokes and salsify, two members of the daisy family.

Aside from the one herb, the seeds and the beetroot, the edible parts of this family consist mostly of leafy greens (also reds purples, and magentas), tender leaves that are edible raw when young, cooked when older, and highly nutritious at any stage. There are not nearly as many edibles as in other families, like the cruciferous (cabbage) family or the solanaceae (tomatoes, potaotes, eggplant), but they are all easy to prepare, not difficult to grown, and they pair well with one another in all sorts of ways. The greens of these various plants are essentially interchangeable and taste very much the same, the wild ones being somewhat stronger.

Among them, I’m partial to chard.  It grows pretty much easily everywhere. It yields edible stalks as well as extremely handsome leaves. Just the appearance those thick leaves with their bubbled surfaces, not to mention the translucent golden, rose and purple stems of the rainbow variety, make my mouth water, even though chard isn’t as exciting as, say, mustard greens or broccoli raab. It is, however, ever reliable, useful, and can be prepared in all sorts of ways. Just steaming or braising the leaves until they’re tender, then turning maglie calcio poco prezzo them in some good olive oil, sea salt and pepper flakes is a simple act that goes far in the taste department. Chard is always compatible with lentils (in a soup) and potatoes (added to boiled ones or a mash.)  My favorite frittata, the Provencale trouchia, is based on slowly cooked chard and onions with basil. Another dish I never tired of is chard cooked leisurely in its own moisture with a few tablespoons of rice and a lot of cilantro, cumin and garlic. You don’t end up with a lot, but the few bites you get are intensely satisfying. Chard can also serve as somewhat neutral but bulk-supplying element when cooked in a soup with stronger tasting but less substantial greens, such as sorrel, nettles, and lovage. It can stuff a crepe or nestle into a lasagna. The combination of eggplant and chard is oddly meaty. The leaves can also be used to harbor fillings. And on and on.

Rainbow chard

All in all chard is an extremely useful green that can be led in this and that direction depending on its herb or spice companions. And you know what else you can do with it?  You can put the leaves in a vase and put them on the table to admire for a day, then cook it. Here’s a recipe from my work in progress, “Vegetable Literacy”.

Chard, Ricotta and Saffron Cakes with Micro Greens Makes 12 3-inch cakes

These can serve as a tidy little nibble for a pass-around, made slightly larger for a first course, or large still for a vegetable main course.

Enough chard to make 10 to 12 cups trimmed leaves

2 pinches saffron threads

1 cup white whole -wheat pastry flour or spelt flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

2 farm eggs

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup whole milk

3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee

Thick yogurt or sour cream and micro greens

Wash the leaves and cook them in a covered pot until they are wilted and tender but not overcooked, so keep an eye on them and taste them frequently once they’ve wilted. When done, put the greens in a colander and set them aside to cool and drain.

Cover the saffron threads with 2 tablespoons boiling water and set aside.

In one bowl, mix the flour with the salt and baking powder. In another bowl, mix the ricotta, cheese, eggs and milk together. Add the oil, butter and steeped saffron threads, then whisk in the flour mixture.

Returning to the greens, squeeze out as much water as possible, then chop them finely and stir them into the batter.

Heat a pan with olive oil, ghee or butter.  Drop batter onto the pan, making small or larger cakes as you wish, and cook over medium-low heat. The batter is quite thick and it will not Cheap NFL Jerseys behave exactly like a pancake.  You need to give it plenty of time in the pan and it will still be very moist. Cook over moderate heat until golden on the bottom, then turn the cakes once, resisting any urge to pat them down, and cook until the second side is also well-colored.  Serve each with a spoonful of sour cream and a garnish of micro greens.